Oman replaces 3 high-level posts as protests widen

MUSCAT, Oman — Oman’s ruler replaced three top government positions Saturday in an attempt to quell more than a week of widening demonstrations calling for jobs and political reforms that in the latest burst spread to a key oil region.

Oman, ruled by a powerful family dynasty, is the latest Arab nation to be swept up in a wave of turmoil that has already brought down two leaders and threatened the rule of others.

Oman’s unrest remains small compared with Gulf neighbor Bahrain, but it is closely watched because of the country’s strategic role as co-guardian of the Strait of Hormouz. Oman and Iran share authority over the crucial waterway at the mouth of the Gulf, which is the route for 40 percent of the world’s oil tanker traffic.

Groups of protesters are staging sit-ins around the country to press for economic reforms and investigations to hold officials accountable for attacks on demonstrators. Oil workers in southern Oman were the latest to join the protests.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said ordered the second top-level shake-up in a week Saturday in the tightly controlled Arabian peninsula nation. He dumped the head of the Palace Office, which oversees security affairs, and replaced the minister who holds the most senior adviser post. He also replaced another minister who deals with internal matters within the ruling structure.

Last week, the sultan replaced six other Cabinet ministers. He later promised 50,000 new civil service jobs and offered a monthly stipend of 150 rials ($390) for job seekers.

But the measures failed to halt sit-ins in the capital, Muscat, and the northern industrial city of Sohar, where the unrest began.

Police killed one protester in the port town of Sohar, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) northwest of Muscat, last Saturday after demonstrations turned violent.

In Haima, a key oil region about 300 miles (500 kilometers) southwest of the capital, oil workers staged a work stoppage to demand more state investments in the area, government officials said. The workers met with a senior envoy from the Oil Ministry.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/05/AR2011030501108.html

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